To the editor:
There was a distressing report on the local news on New Year's Day about the fate of an eagles nest on Marco Island.
First it gave some background. A year ago, two eagle eggs were left unattended when their parents were frightened off by fireworks on New Year's Eve. They succumbed to the cold and died. Eagles breed in southwest Florida at this time of year and must incubate their eggs continually in order for them to remain viable.
Following this experience, local authorities and conservationists on Marco made a public plea to fun seekers in 2013 to stay well away from the nest when setting off their fireworks.
Nonetheless, some people just don't get the message. According to the news report, the same thing happened this year. Last week, on New Year's Eve 2014, the same eagle pair fled their nest in fright as fireworks exploded around them. One recently hatched eaglet and an egg were left unattended during the night. The nest is now empty, both the eaglet and egg likely killed, say conservationists. Not by the cold, but by predatory birds while the nest was unattended.
The sale of fireworks is currently illegal in Florida, though a loophole allows people to purchase them under an exemption that allows farms and fish hatcheries to use them to scare off birds. Apparently, some dealers use the exemption by simply asking purchasers to sign a waiver claiming the fireworks are to be used for agricultural purposes. Bills filed during the last legislative session would have repealed the often-misused exemption, but they died in committee.
But wait - it gets worse. This year, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, over the objection of the Florida Fire Chiefs Association, has filed a bill, H.B. 4005, that would actually repeal the ban on fireworks completely. Passage of that bill, which has the strong support of the fireworks industry trade association, would expose members of the public to needless injury - there are thousands of fireworks related injuries each year - and threaten nesting birds not just at New Year's Eve but throughout the year.
With all of the real life problems facing the state of Florida, let's hope our elected representatives see this bill for what it is - a gift to the fireworks industry - and vote a resounding "no" on H.B 4005.